Neuheisel's return to Seattle sparks questions about UCLA job opening

Updated: December 23, 2007, 10:03 PM ET

SEATTLE -- As an alum, Baltimore offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel could already get away with using "we" when talking about UCLA.

But soon, Neuheisel might not be referring to UCLA just as a one-time Bruin.

Neuheisel returned to Seattle on Sunday with the Ravens, and watched his offense stumble through a 27-6 loss to the Seahawks, the Ravens' ninth straight defeat.

But Neuheisel's current affiliation with the Ravens was of little interest. Instead, it was his past four-year stint as Washington's coach, and his current interest in the open head coaching job at UCLA that had Neuheisel fielding questions both on the field and in the locker room.

"I can't comment on that. They're involved in a search and I'm obviously busy, too," Neuheisel said about the Bruins' job. "I've said I'm interested, but the important thing is they do what's best for them and I've certainly got things to concentrate on with our game against Pittsburgh."

Neuheisel has been the rumored front-runner, especially with UCLA's failed attempt at luring Mike Belotti away from Oregon.

Still, Neuheisel can't escape his checkered past in Seattle, and was reminded again about the mix of admiration and loathing he created in just four years at Washington. Neuheisel went 33-16 with the Huskies, including four bowl trips and a Rose Bowl title.

As he walked off the field on Sunday afternoon, Neuheisel was greeted by a sign reading "Thanks Rick. 4 Apple Cups. 1 Rose Bowl."

Only 10 feet away, another fan screamed at the 46-year-old coach: "You made the Huskies program worse. The Huskies program sucks because of you."

"I have fond memories of Seattle," Neuheisel said. "A messy ending, an unfortunate ending, but I look forward to a day when we can put all that stuff behind us and we will be talking about the Huskies in the Rose Bowl ... and all good things."

Neuheisel hasn't been in the college game since Washington fired him in 2003 for participating in a betting pool on the NCAA basketball tournament. He sued for wrongful termination from Washington and settled in March 2005 with UW and the NCAA for $4.5 million.

Neuheisel began his road back to coaching in the fall of that year as a volunteer assistant coaching quarterbacks at Seattle's Rainier Beach High School. Baltimore coach Brian Billick then hired him to be Baltimore's quarterback coach.

When asked Sunday if he's heard anything about Neuheisel leaving his staff, Billick said, "I wouldn't know."

But Billick has strongly supported Neuheisel's efforts in landing a head coaching job. Earlier this week, Billick said that while Neuheisel is an excellent pro coach, his enthusiasm and affection is for the college game.

Neuheisel quarterbacked UCLA in the 1984 Rose Bowl and was a UCLA assistant from 1986-93.

"We had a great run in the four years I coached here. We had a lot of kids get a great college experience," Neuheisel said of his years at Washington. "We went to a Rose Bowl and won it.

"I have no bad feelings at all about the job we did. It was just a very unfortunate ending where no body really won. It was a sad ending to what otherwise was a very, very good time."

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